Congratulations and best wishes to Kirk Douglas, who celebrates his 100th birthday this Friday. The Smith Rafael Film Center pays tribute with a week-long tribute commencing Dec. 9 with Paths of Glory and Lust for Life and featuring Ace in the Hole, Spartacus and other major works. Douglas was one of the first movie stars to wield power as a producer, leveraging his box office appeal to make films that were overtly and covertly political. Indeed, as depicted in last year’s excellent Trumbo, Douglas was sufficiently strong and principled to strike a key blow against the Hollywood blacklist. Ah, if only I could stop ruminating about the distant past and focus on the future.
Coincidentally, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts chooses the same weekend to salute another 1916 birthday boy, Roald Dahl. The late Welsh writer devoted a substantial chunk of his enormous output to alerting younger readers to the depths of deviousness lurking within the average adult. (Even parents, believe it or not!)
Roald Dahl at 100 begins Thursday with Nicolas Roeg’s delicious 1990 adaptation of The Witches, which recounts a boy’s heroic efforts to defeat the nasty schemes of Anjelica Huston and the veritable battalion of witches under her control. Then take 91 sweet minutes to remember Dahl and the beloved Gene Wilder, who passed away this year, with the charming yet spiky 1971 version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Saturday, Dec. 10). If you’re holding out for something newer and shinier from the studios later this month, imagine Dahl whispering in your ear, “The grown-ups can’t be trusted.”